Wireless Monitoring in the City

Loraine Lawson

What if you could monitor an entire city, wirelessly? You could collect data on pollution, traffic flows, weather patterns, even empty parking spaces. What would that mean for city governments? Future wireless networks? Hospitals? Businesses? Citizens?


We'll soon know. Cambridge, Mass., is about to become one big research project for wireless monitoring.


Harvard and BBN Technologies are currently fitting the city with wireless-sensor nodes, mounted on telephone poles. When complete, which could take four years, CitySense will include 100 nodes, all collecting information on pollution and weather patterns.


The researchers are well aware that they're not just testing technology. CitySense will also test the social implications of constant, city-wide monitoring. Already, there are whispers of connecting video monitors to the network, although the project researchers are quick to say they have no plans to do so.


By itself, the technology is simple enough: The nodes are mini PCs equiped with flash memory and running Linux. (Did I just mention Linux? Hey: Slashdot this!) Each node will be relatively large -- about the size of a Mac Mini computer. A node will include a PC that runs the Linux operating system plus a couple of gigabytes of flash memory as a hard drive. The nodes connect in a mesh network using standard Wi-Fi radios.


The trick, of course, is not in the planning, but in the implementation. The article explains how they will handle node failures and other potential problems.


The price tag? The National Science Foundation will provide CitySense with $900,000 over the next four years.


Here's my question: Would you use this technology for good or evil?


I'd have to say my plans would be selfish, but simple: I'd map the fastest path to the nearest Ben & Jerry's shop on Free Ice Cream Day which, by the way, is April 17.

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Add Comment      Leave a comment on this blog post
Apr 18, 2007 10:50 AM Prof Green Prof Green  says:
Move slowly. What is put in place for good causes is often the path to a loss of freedom and autonomy. Look at London. Where is there any privacy? It is tough to weigh the benefits of public information with personal freedoms, but we must do this. Issues of who will have access, how will it be used, etc. may be simple for the first wave of weather data, but perhaps all nodes should be well marked and mapped for private citizens' spotting from the get-go. That way temptations of officials are checked even with this innoculous first try at wireless. I like data and believe we need lots of it to improve our lifestyle, but I like freedom and privacy more. I urge the NSF and Harvard to go slowly and wear big markers to protect one of our national treasures - individual freedom from public voyers. Go thermometers - hold the cameras and microphones. Reply
Apr 28, 2007 5:06 PM Sundeep Sundeep  says:
Kindly forward thye necessary information related with above subject. I hace experience on wireless HF, VHF, UHF, XHF, etc. of more than 15 yrs. I have many projects & plans to push this products in Indian Market. I am ready to accept the challenge & adopt the technology and also ready to get hands on training.My contact no. +91 9860302242. Maharashtra, INDIA. Reply

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